finally back in cambridge after a sumptuous couple of weeks down the cape. toward the end of our vacation, summer started to feel a little endless--which was a glorious thing in itself. we rose and fell with the sun, chasing it around on bikes and beaches all day and drinking cool cocktails as it set each evening. i figured that fennesz's endless summer would provide an appropriate soundtrack, so i grabbed the CD from home before i returned from my brief beat-research excursion.
and in many ways it was the perfect accompaniment to our sundry summery activities. there's a definite warmth that emerges from fennesz's studied digital tinkering. of course, the cover art and the ghosted beach-boy timbres help too. at the same time, though, the music is no walk on the beach. there's enough glitch and switch in the mix to make the uninitiated listener wonder if there isn't a little sand screwing with the car stereo.
and screwing is an appropriate term of sorts. i mean, glitch is/was the new/old screwed, innit? in many cases at least, so-called glitch music results from similar processes to those that create screwed music: fuck with--i'm sorry, screw with--the playback equipment (or the media itself) and record the results; if you like, chop and paste said results. presto: new music from old music! sure, screwed music relies on a relationship to recognizable sounds more heavily than glitch music (despite those who may actually hear the aphex twin in systemisch), but there is a fundamental sameness in the approach and a shared sensibility for altering sound sources via playback equipment and for relishing the sounds of the machines themselves, not to mention the sounds of the machines and the media messed/ing up.
not all of fennesz's compositions are glitchy in the same way: some seem to degrade into a granular mush, some erupt irregularly in sharp buzzing sounds, and others skip along like a water-worn rock tossed from the shore at low tide.
a rock's-eye view
my dear girl, becca, got in the car one day last week and encountered a track with this kind of skippy glitchiness, "before i leave" (as excerpted here by amazon--a fine research tool, i'll have you know). upon hearing the staccato, clipped, repetitive sounds, she said to herself (as she later reported), is this skipping or is this music? i love that question. it says right away that she knew that, at least for someone, this could be music. she just wanted to make sure that that someone was not just her. (having attended most of my electronic music lectures and suffered through many an oval listening session, she knew better than to dismiss it summarily.) she didn't want to surrender to the skipping as i would have done, welcoming new listening experiences regardless of how random, bizarre, or (to an extent) abrasive. she wanted to make sure it was music in the mind of the creator, and not just in her own. i appreciate her distinction between the two. she skipped to the next track to discover it playing just fine, decided that the previous track was indeed "music," and yet proceeded to listen to the CD right where it was--on a less skippy track.
for me, i told her, it is music regardless of what the creator thought. and i've felt this way for a long time. this is why, for example, i've been cherishing a slurred version of booker t and the MGs' time is tight for so long. and although it was mainly heavy-moleculed tetrahydrocannibols, and not DJ screw, that encouraged me to listen to incidentally-screwed music with open ears, it was definitely markus popp who helped me to hear a skipping CD as music where becca would hear skipping.
i remember one day several years ago when i was entranced by eric dolphy's out to lunch in a way that i had never been before. i found myself listening to individual flute attacks (and to breaths and half-breaths), to the amazing timbres that resulted from a vertical instant of bass/vibes/flute/cymbals, to the incidental beauty that emerged from a beautiful CD skipping beautifully. i was disappointed to learn that my cherished CD had been ruined, but the result was of no little consolation. in fact, the uniquely scratched CD was suddenly even more valuable than the pristine one. i could always get a new copy (and prolly even more digitally remastered or something) but i couldn't get another copy to do this:
eric dolphy, "out to glunch" (wayne&wax re-glitch) (10 min / 9 MB)
no doubt the glitched-out track sounds especially good because it is such an especially good track to begin with. jazz doesn't get more simultaneously in and out than this. these cats follow compositions and each other very closely, and yet sound completely unhinged, unorthodox, unconcerned with convention. as listeners in a digital age, we could stand to be as unconcerned ourselves when it comes to new musical approaches, new ways of playing as well as listening.
the sounds on the cape--breaking waves and chirping crickets mostly--had a similar music to them, one that was at least as in-and-out, as glitchy and warm, as any fennesz recording or eric dolphy malfunction. i like that listening to glitchy music affects the way i listen to the world, and vice versa. we could do worse than to hear each minute as music, whether or not it's "musical" in the traditional sense. best meditation that there is, if you ask me.
of course, i worship most frequently, if at all, at the throne of nature, which offers up no end of miracles. cheesy church calendars aside, god may as well be the sun coming through the clouds.
and christ would mean more to man if he were seen as no more miracle than the grass and the rain, but that's the transcendentalist in me talking.
can't help feeling this way when i get out into nature, though. constructed a category as it may be, nature provides a palpably different physical and spiritual environment than the city. being in it truly feels like communion of the highest sort, complete with passages to new worlds, such as the portal-like entry to the dunes at provincetown.
after passing through, this is the hill you climb to get a look, over the dunes, at the sea.
and here's a sliver of sea, seen from the dunes.
i told you i'd take better pictures this year:
i could do this forever. fortunately, there's flickr to help me (and spare you). [this whole tag phenomenon is frighteningly fascinating, e?] and there's cambridge to occupy me with all sorts of pursuits and projects, which, would you believe, actually seem to stand still when you're not watching over them.
at any rate, allow me one last, lovely sunset.
why don't they look this way in the city?
(ok--next post will be much less capecodian and much more cantabridgian. i promise.)